PM calls for faster investigation into COVID-19 test kit overcharging

December 23, 2021 - 15:16
Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính has requested the Ministry of Public Security to further investigate Việt Á Technology, which is suspected of overcharging for COVID-19 testing kits, and colluding with managers of hospitals and centres to use its test kits.


COVID-19 testing kits made by Việt Á Technology Joint Stock Company. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính has requested the Ministry of Public Security to further investigate Việt Á Technologies JSC, which is suspected of overcharging for COVID-19 testing kits, and colluding with managers of hospitals and centres to use its test kits.

Under a document issued by the Government Office on Wednesday, the PM expects that police will soon complete the investigation, bringing violators to trial and returning appropriated assets to the State budget.

Ministries and agencies including ministries of Health, Finance, and Planning and Investment were asked to co-operate with police to speed up the investigation and handle any problems.

A few days ago, police arrested and initiated legal proceedings against Phan Quốc Việt, general director of Việt Á Technologies, for allegedly raising the price of COVID-19 test kits.

On December 10, 2021, the Investigative Police Agency under the Ministry of Public Security conducted an emergency search of 16 locations in eight localities and summoned 30 individuals involved in the case. 

In April 2020, the company was licensed by the Ministry of Health to distribute COVID-19 test kits. Since then, it has supplied the test kits to Centres for Diseases Control (CDC) and other medical facilities in 62 provinces and cities across the country, taking a revenue of nearly VNĐ4 trillion.

The initial investigation showed that Việt and key leaders of the company admitted they had taken advantage of urgent demand for test kits and provided hospitals and CDCs with medical materials in advance. 

They then colluded with leaders of these units so that Việt Á Technologies could be the provider of COVID-19 test kits to these units at prices set by the company, which were much higher than the production price.  

At the same time, Việt spent a huge amount giving money to the officers and unit leaders. 

Việt overstated the price of equipment and materials, and set the selling price of the COVID-19 test kits at VNĐ470,000.

Initially, the Police Investigation Agency of the Ministry of Public Security identified the violation in the sale of COVID-19 test kits by Việt Á Technologies to Hải Dương CDC through five contracts with a total value of VNĐ151 billion.

Việt gave VNĐ30 billion to Phạm Duy Tuyến, director of CDC Hải Dương, for winning the contract.

On December 17, 2021, the Investigative Police Agency began criminal processing against the company, Hải Dương CDC and related units/localities for "violation of regulations on bidding, causing serious consequences". 

On Thursday, December 23, the Representative Office of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Việt Nam provided detailed information about the PCR test kit produced by Việt Á company such as application submission, rejection and reasons from denial.

According to the WHO, by December 20, 2021, a total of 28 in vitro diagnostics (IVD) COVID-19 products had been approved through WHO Emergency Use Listing Procedure (EUL), while 46 other products did not meet the necessary safety and performance or quality management requirements.

Among the 46 products that did not meet the required records were Việt Á company’s product - the LightPower iVASARS-CoV-21stRT rPCR kit.

"The product profile has been evaluated and does not meet requirements. WHO has published the EUL public report on this product profile," WHO Vietnam announced.

On December 21, the Ministry of Health released a statement confirming that the ministry strictly complied with regulations in licensing and ensuring the quality of biological products for testing COVID-19.

It said the act of raising the price of the COVID-19 test kit by Việt Á Technologies needed to be handled very seriously.

According to the ministry, companies that want their products to be included in the WHO list should submit an application to WHO for consideration.

Each country and organisation has different criteria and requirements for documents and products to be approved for circulation of biological products. Companies wishing their products to be circulated and used in any country/organisation must submit a dossier according to the regulations of the country/organisation.

Therefore, the licensing of the Ministry of Health for products of Việt Á Technologies and other manufacturers does not depend on the list published by WHO. — VNS